Why my garden deserves a much better gardener


You might think I am making excuses, but I’m pretty sure all the problems I have with my garden today can be traced back to the fact that I wasn’t here to do work when it needed to be done in spring.

I was away in the UK all of May and the first part of June and when I got back my garden was already overrun with morning glory and off and running out of control in all directions.

I had also missed a significant opportunity to plant new things and do key replacement and renovation and upgrading work.

Section of Steve Whysall’s garden in July, 2017.

Last winter was hard on my garden, worse than any year I can remember. Heavy snow did a lot of damage and repeated freeze-thaw cycles killed some treasured plants.

I lost some large shrubs, including a beautiful choisya (Mexica orange blossom) and a large Clematis montana plus an old buddleia and an important pieris that occupied a key spot in the front garden.

Section of Steve Whysall’s garden in July, 2017.

In March and April, if you remember, it was much too cold and wet (with torrential rain pretty much every day) and was impossible to get into the garden to do anything. I was forced to go off to the UK and leave things as they were with the hope that I could make amends on my return.

View inside Steve Whysall’s garden in July, 2017.

When I finally got back into the garden in June, I immediately began making changes and improvements. I installed a couple of new pillars, one with honeysuckle growing around it, the other with a golden hops vine to create a simple bright, foliage upright.

Red zone where pelargoniums have taken over

Red pelargoniums that I had overwintered from last summer were doing exceptionally well despite all my neglect and they did even better once I gave them a shot of 20-20-20 fertilizer.

Unfortunately, they ended up turning the garden into a startling red zone with bright red flowers billowing everywhere.

View inside Steve Whysall’s garden in July, 2017.

I made the best of it by spacing out the pots of pelargoniums and interspersing a few cool blue and white flowers in between the red.

Today, I wandered around the backyard and took the photos you see here and although I am not unhappy with what I see, I know that my month away in May did come at a cost in terms of what I was able to get planted here and there to add a little more height and colour and better sequences for July and August.

View inside Steve Whysall’s garden in July, 2017.

Fortunately, the lilies I planted a few years ago came back with their usual vigour and beauty to save the day and I also see some phlox and Japanese anemones that will soon come to the aid of the party, too, for the second part of summer.

Turk’s cap lilies in Steve Whysall’s garden in July

August is coming.  I doubt I will be doing much more than watering and clipping dead flowers. And in September – the month when I should be busy doing all the renovations and new planting I didn’t get to in spring – will still not get done because I will be going away again, this time to South Africa.

View inside Steve Whysall’s garden in July, 2017.

I will try to do what I can between now and then, but I tell myself: “I don’t really see how you can be a gardener if you are never in it at the times it needs you most.”

You see, I was right, yes, you do think I am making excuses. Well, I probably am. But for all of my shortcomings, I still love this space where I get to play at gardening.

In the words of John Clare: “Despised, unskilled, or how I will, Sweet Poesy! I’ll love thee still.”


View inside Steve Whysall’s garden in July, 2017.
Wall planter with browallia.
Oleander underplanted with purple oxalis.
Polar Star lily at its best in Steve Whysall’s garden.
Roses in Steve Whysall’s backyard.



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